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"How Do We Build A Mass Movement to Reverse Runaway Inequality?" with Les Leopold, author of "Runaway Inequality: An Activist's Guide to Economic Justice,"May 22, 2016, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York, 860 11th Ave. (Between 58th and 59th), New York City. Between The Lines' Scott Harris and Richard Hill moderated this workshop. Listen to the audio/slideshows and more from this workshop.
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Modified Feb. 25, 2011
Interview with Susan Yolen, vice president of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, conducted by Melinda Tuhus
After an all-night session on Feb. 19, the House of Representatives passed a continuing budget resolution that zeroes out Title X, the decades-old federal family planning program -- and an amendment to the resolution that cuts all federal funding to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Planned Parenthood, which runs 800 health centers around the country, provides a wide spectrum of services addressing women's health. Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence, who sponsored the Planned Parenthood amendment, called the vote "a victory for taxpayers and a victory for life," because he stated, Planned Parenthood provides abortions. But women seeking abortions constitute just ten percent of Planned Parenthood's patients in most states, while the vast majority of women go to the group's clinics for pregnancy prevention and basic health care.
Federal, state and local grants total $363 million -- or one-third of Planned Parenthood's $1 billion national budget. Ninety percent of that amount is in federal grants or Medicaid payments.
Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Susan Yolen, vice president of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, covering Connecticut and Rhode Island. She explains the history of these funding streams, how women are benefiting, and what's likely to happen if the proposed cuts overcome opposition in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate and an expected presidential veto.
SUSAN YOLEN: Actually, we weren't surprised at all. We were expecting it. I think Mr. Pence has been around with this kind of language for years. He just hasn't had the groundswell, I guess, of support from leadership that he now has with the new Republican majority. So we weren't surprised; we were bracing for it.
BETWEEN THE LINES: There are two things I want to talk about. One is directly cutting all federal funding for Planned Parenthood at clinics around the country; but the other thing is cutting Title X funding, which also I guess has an impact. Let's talk about Title X funding first. What would that mean? For listeners, just describe what Title X funding is and what Planned Parenthood affiliates get and what its cut would mean.
SUSAN YOLEN: Well, Title X is the national family planning program. It was founded back in the early 1970s by President Nixon, believe it or not, back in the days when it was a very positive Republican value to support family planning. So it's been around all those years, and it really is the core of our national program to help women prevent unintended pregnancy, but more than that, it provides vital screenings for young people and low-income women. This is where the annual exam, the Pap smear, the clinical breast exam, the testing and treatment for STDs...
BETWEEN THE LINES: STDs being...
SUSAN YOLEN: Sexually transmitted diseases -- all of which is covered by Title X for those who qualify, who are low-income women and often times young women who are in their first job or just don't have insurance.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Can you clarify the funding that was proposed to be cut specifically from Planned Parenthood -- does that sort of roll over into Title X funding, or are they two separate pots?
SUSAN YOLEN: Well, there are two things going on here. One is Congress saying Planned Parenthood should get not a dollar of federal funding, no matter what the source is. So Title X is one source. But there are other sources of revenue that come in our door; for example, about 30 percent of our patients are on Medicaid and when they come to us with their Medicaid card, Medicaid is the payer for their care, so that would be also something that would be out of bounds for us.
BETWEEN THE LINES: So 30 percent of your patients would no longer be able to get services...
SUSAN YOLEN: That's right, and one of the ironies of all this is that with health reform coming down the pike -- I hope -- one of the first steps that was going to take place was the expansion of Medicaid so that more low-income people could right away get coverage. And so we are all expecting a number of new people to be eligible for Medicaid who will be looking for a provider because there aren't enough providers to suddenly accommodate a whole influx of newly covered individuals. So I know the community health centers will be expecting an influx, but so would we.
BETWEEN THE LINES: So, Mike Pence, I noticed on his website, he claims credit and says it's really going to cut funding for abortions. So what percentage of Planned Parenthood's money goes for abortion? I mean, you do a lot of other things as well.
SUSAN YOLEN: It varies across the country, but here in Connecticut and Rhode Island it's less than ten percent of our patients, and our services, are abortion-focused. So the vast majority of our work is basic pregnancy prevention, basic health visits, cancer screenings in particular. So it's not abortion-focused, and none of the federal money that we get actually goes for abortion because of federal legislation that was passed years ago and continues to be renewed called the Hyde amendment, which says only in very, very extreme cases, could a woman access an abortion with federal dollars.
BETWEEN THE LINES: I know you're hoping, all the people who support reproductive rights and access to health care for women, hope this is going to die in the Senate. Is that your expectation?
SUSAN YOLEN: Well, I think it's our cautiously optimistic expectation. We certainly aren't taking anything for granted. We're going to be working diligently between now and whenever the Senate votes to make sure that every senator who supports family planning -- and there are folks, by the way, who are not pro-choice on the abortion issue, but do understand the importance of preventing pregnancy and will vote with us in that regard. So we're hoping to get every vote we can. I'd just like to talk about the availability of family planning, because, honestly, every dollar the government spends on family planning saves four dollars. This has been documented over and over again.
BETWEEN THE LINES: How does it do that?
SUSAN YOLEN: Well, by preventing the cost associated with an unplanned pregnancy, so in the first nine months -- because that's how long a pregnancy takes -- you're saving money on prenatal care visits, labor and delivery, and particularly sometimes, you know, the neonatal intensive care kind of costs that drives the cost of delivery up very high. So we will be losing money by not investing in family planning.
BETWEEN THE LINES: If a low-income person needs family planning, birth control, and can't get it, the likelihood of many more unplanned pregnancies seems the inevitable result, and within that group of unplanned pregnancies, an increase among some of those women in trying to figure out, one way or another, how to get an abortion.
SUSAN YOLEN: Absolutely, that is clearly the case. Every unintended pregnancy is someone's individual decision to make. And certainly, just getting back to the economy for a moment, right now it's a particularly difficult time to not be able to afford that monthly pill pack that is really what's keeping her from pregnancy.
Contact Planned Parenthood at (202) 973-4800 or visit their website at plannedparenthood.org